Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Computer Safety + "Most Overlooked"

Well here it is, Monday again. I hope you all you were able to enjoy the weekend… and did better on your football picks than I did. hardhat area

This morning I looked over this site’s ‘stats’ and noticed that – yet again – some chucklehead left a spam comment on one of my articles. There have been over 45,500 such geniuses so far.. so nothing unusual there.

The reason I mention that, is that the comment was left on an article I had all but forgotten I had written; and so the spammer has inadvertently done us a service, Dear Reader, as the article discusses one of the most overlooked ways of protecting the investment which is your electronic devices. Which I now re-post.

First Line Of Defense – The Lowly Powerstrip*

Every now and then, something comes along and upsets our daily routine. This causes us to make adjustments and adapt. I am a fairly typical example of human nature in that I find upsets to my routine (sense of normalcy), well, upsetting. I get things set to the way I like them, and I want them to stay that way… and I get cranky when they’re not.

Yesterday, the hard drive on one of my testbed machines gave up the ghost and died: one machine down. Then last night we had a storm and some funny things happen to our electricity — all of my lights got really bright and then ‘poof’ darkness; then, quickly, about three times in a row, the power tried to come back on, but failed. A couple of minutes later, it was on and stayed on.. long enough to develop a false sense of relief. Then it was out for an hour. Basically, a “surge”, followed by “line recycling”.

Now I don’t want you to think I’m snivelling. I’m not. But I did need to “set the stage” for this — another of my machines was plugged into a cheap, old, powerstrip pstrip.jpgwhich did not react to the surge. So, that machine experienced the full roller-coaster ride of a surge in power, sudden outage, rebooting, outage, full reboot+full outage.. which, apparently, it didn’t like very much.
I have yet to determine if it just the Windows installation that was damaged, if the reported RAM memory module errors are temporary, or if a component on the motherboard is now “fried”. Second machine down. [it was Windows.]

Due to these things, and the fact that I simply cannot live without a computer, a trip to my local electronics store was my first act of the day– and because there is a moral to this story (actually, a couple of them) I will share with you my purchases.
Moral #1: the devices I had plugged into modern, rated, and “not cheap” powerstrips suffered no ill effects. (I had used the old powerstrip because it had happened to be handy.) There is a difference in the quality of powerstrips, and their protective abilities. I made a conscientious inventory and have replaced all my old powerstrips with ones specifically designed belkin.jpgand rated for sensitive electronics. (If you are in an area that has lightning [and who isn’t?] it is a good idea to protect your phone line and coaxial cable lines too.) Such as with this “media center” one from Belkin.

Moral #2: My machines attached to a UPS (aka “battery backup”) also were unaffected by the surge and recyclings. However, I never got around to attaching my DSL modem and router to a UPS, as they are somewhat distant from my work area. And so, while I was able to have a computer running, the network, and the Internet was unavailable. I remedied that as well.
I wrote an article on Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS), which you can read by clicking here.

Moral #3: Hard drives do fail. Fortunately, replacing them is not a very difficult task. And restoring the first machine I mentioned was not all that difficult or time-consuming either.. in fact, I had a side-benefit as the new drive is quite a bit larger than the now-dead drive was.
But I must point out, I can make the statement I made (immediately above) because I had a full system backup stored on another drive. If I did not have that full backup, I would still be reinstalling programs and reconfiguring settings and updating my software and… well, anyone who’s done it can tell you, it’s a royal pain.
So I remind you, again, that it is very important to make backups of your computer.. and to store those backups on two different storage media types. To read my article on setting your computer to make backups automatically, click here.

Today’s free link: Many people have taken particular note of my article on Processes, and what should (or should not) be showing in the list in Task Manager. A resource for figuring out those strange looking entries that I have not mentioned before is the Process Library, which will help you determine if a process is “good” or “bad”.

* Orig post: 12/7/07

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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January 11, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Own A Laptop? Make A Thumb Drive Theft Alarm With Free Tool

Turn An Old Thumb Drive Into An Anti-Theft Device

Prevent the theft of your laptop. Laptop theft is common and a constant threat. There is a free program – LAlarm – which when installed emits a loud siren sound when a thief tries to steal your laptop. And it can destroy selected data (and recover it later) if the laptop is stolen; which is an important step in protecting your “identity”, and personal information.

LAlarm consists of five alarms and other security functions designed to protect laptops and sensitive data.

Highlights

  • Theft Alarm- It prevents laptop theft by sounding an alarm when a thief tries to steal a laptop.
  • Perimeter Alarm- It alerts when a laptop goes outside a perimeter.
  • Data Destruction- It protects sensitive data by destroying the data if the laptop is stolen.
  • Data Recovery- It can recover data from a stolen laptop.
  • Mobile Phone Alert- It sends an alert to a mobile phone via email or SMS.
  • Theft Response- you can tell your laptop what to do in advance if your laptop is in hands of a thief.

What I found “kewel” was the feature that lets you use an old thumb drive as a “sensor” – as described here, fasten a laptop to a table by using a USB flash drive strap. When a thief removes the laptop from the table, the flash drive will be disconnected from the laptop and then an alarm will go off.
A great use for that old 128 MB thumb drive sitting neglected in a drawer..!

If you “go mobile” with your laptop, I highly recommend you take a look at this free program. To do so, click here.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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October 19, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, mobile, Portable Computing, security, tech, thumb drives, USB storage devices | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

GMA — Let’s Talk About Sexting

Good Morning America tackled an important topic — of particular concern to parents. I am posting this video in case you missed it.. or would like to forward it to your friends.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Good Morning America on ABC News – AB…“, posted with vodpod

[note: if the player doesn’t work, please click here.]

Today’s free link:Parental Monitoring And Cellular Phones If your child has a cell phone, this article provides you with some tools and information.

Today’s free download: K9 Web Protection is a  free Internet filtering and control solution for the home. K9 puts YOU in control of the Internet so you can protect your kids.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

April 15, 2009 Posted by | advice, cellular, computers, Digital Images, Internet, iPhone, kids and the Internet, privacy, security, tech, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Scare Tactics

The shadow Internet economy is worth over $105 billion. Online crime is bigger than the global drugs trade. No country, no person, no business and no government is immune from CyberCrime.

Currently there is an epidemic of fake anti-malware software on the Internet– which is collectively called “rogue anti-malware“. Marketed under hundreds of different names, such as VirusRemover 2008 and Antivirus XP 2009, this type of rogue software scares people by giving false alarms, and then tries to deceive them into paying for removal of non-existing malware.

This video (produced by the good folks at WOT) shows what happens when a legitimate site gets infected and redirected to one of these bogus anti-malware scams.
Yes, folks, legitimate websites are being ‘hacked’.

The people behind this scourge use many different ways to try to entice you to click– realistic looking pop-up windows appear, offers of “free trials” arrive in e-mail, and “free scan” buttons on legit-looking ‘fight malware’ websites.. the means are quite varied!

As this video shows, the user is tricked into (scared into, really) providing their credit card #  to clean infections that weren’t there before they clicked and aren’t really there now.
* The ‘false positives’ are not “cleaned” BUT, more adware and spyware is installed.
* A good percentage of my calls at Aplus Computer Aid are folks needing help with getting rid of these rogues. Because these clever programs use the latest techniques to combat removal, and it can be quite tough — if not impossible — to truly remove them.. without formatting your hard-drive.
* For more, please read Is that anti-spyware program really spyware?
* One Website dedicated to combating this epidemic is Spyware Warrior. It has a pretty good list of known rogues, and much more detailed information. Another excellent resource is .
* I have written several How-To’s on protecting yourself from malware, and how to clean your machines as well. to see those titles.

From the new MessageLabs whitepaper. (This eye-opening report provides a disturbing look into the ‘dark’ world of cyber-crime. This link is the online version.. you need to scroll a bit..)

Today’s free download: WOT is a free Internet security addon for your browser. It will help keep you safe(r) from online scams, identity theft, spyware, spam, viruses and unreliable shopping sites. WOT warns you before you interact with a risky Website. It’s easy and it’s free.

  • Ratings for over 20 million websites
  • Downloaded 1 million times
  • The WOT browser addon is light and updates automatically
  • WOT rating icons appear beside search results in Google, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Gmail, etc.
  • Settings can be customized to better protect your family
  • WOT Security Scorecard shows rating details and user comments

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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October 27, 2008 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, antivirus, computers, cyber crime, hackers, how to, Internet, Internet scam, News, PC, Phishing, phraud, security, software, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Skype — “Windows Requires Immediate Attention”.. Not!

Folks, after a quiet period, cyber-crooks are once again using Skype to send phishing “chats” in an attempt to defraud you. So, I am reposting this article. It is the exact same ruse, but the name has changed. It will reappear every so often with a slightly different name and URL…

Yesterday a “chat” window (Skype) opened on my machine, and presented me with a dire warning from someone named “Software Update” “Registry Scan Online®”. It said that “WINDOWS REQUIRES IMMEDIATE ATTENTION” and, it provided me with a solution.  SkypeCon

(Click on image to see large version)

Please, folks, tell me you have spotted this for what it is. Please tell me that you knew –instantly– that this is a cyber-crime attempt; that it is Phraud-ulent.

Please tell me that you know what will happen if the link provided in this message is clicked; and, please, please, please tell me you would never click the link.

Just in case you aren’t sure:
* “Software Update” “Registry Scan Online ®” doesn’t exist.
*http://www.onlinemonitor.info” “www.registryscan.com” is not registered in ARIN (the registry of Internet addresses).
* clicking the link will allow scripts to run, and/or take you to a poisoned Website which will install malware on your machine, or/and it may take you to a site that will sell you a rogue anti-spyware program (please read my article, Is that antispyware program really spyware).
* Microsoft DOES NOT alert you via Instant Messaging. No legitimate company does. Period. Ever. This is a classic example of a hacker’s attempt to get you to click their link.

All of this so they can rip you off. It’s their full time job.

Please point your less-savvy friends and family to this article and educate them to the dangers of spam (unsolicited) messages and tell them– NEVER CLICK THE LINK.
[Note: while this article directly references the VoIP client Skype, you may see this type of thing in other Instant Messaging/Chat programs.]

[addenda: Peter Parkes (Skype Blogger) wrote and asked me to remind my readers to, quote, “Please report users who send these messages to abuse@skype.net – that will help us to block them where appropriate.”]

Today’s free link(s): I have assembled on my Website a collection of links to the best free anti-malware programs to help you prevent infection.. and clean up if you’ve been infected. To see them, click here.

Also, Bill Mullins has posted a very complete tutorial, Think You Have A Virus?– Some Solutions, which is quite probably the best one-stop lesson on malware I have ever run across. (I also recommend his How Fake/Rogue Software Affects Real People.)

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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September 12, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, cyber crime, hackers, how to, IM, Internet scam, PC, Phishing, phraud, security, tech, VoIP, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Modern Nightmare

It’s like we woke up inside a horror movie– we are under attack by zombies.

Night of the Living Dead

Yes. It’s true. Real life is imitating art (if you’re willing to call Night of the Living Dead “art”). We really are under attack by zombies– only our zombies aren’t trying to eat our flesh, they are trying to sell us bootleg f@rmacuticals and cheap Vl@gra, fake Rolex watches, and steal our identities. [note in the photo how the zombie is reaching for the wallet?]

In real life, our zombies can’t claw at us directly and they don’t have teeth. Our zombies are computers. Our computers. And they attack via e-mail and the Internet. Like the zombies in Night, they spread the zombie disease by infection. Differently, our zombies aren’t mindless; they’re controlled by villains (aka “cyber-criminals”).

Yes. Your computer may be a zombie.

If it isn’t a zombie (yet), it is constantly under the attack of infection via the Internet. An unprotected computer, connected to the Internet, will be infected within 8 minutes.
90 to 95% of all Internet traffic traveling the wires (using “bandwidth”) is zombie-generated junk e-mail that’s either a fraud attempt or (and?) loaded with malware– the “attack”.

How did this happen? Well, part of it is the Tech Industry’s fault (see, How the Tech Industry is Failing You), either unintentionally, or through lack of foresight, or through willful negligence and the rush to market. Security either wasn’t considered, or it was too expensive.
Nobody predicted the nerdy hackers evolving into organized, well-financed, criminal gangs of today.
And they put too-powerful, fully capable machines into the hands of the unwashed masses– us. The rest of it is our fault.

* We let our antivirus expire and everyday close the warning.
* We think we’ve just won the British Lottery.
* We still run Windows 98 because we’re “comfortable with it”.
* We cannot resist ‘free’ pornography.
* We cannot be bothered with those REALLY ANNOYING little windows that pop open at the worst times and tell us that a “newer version is available.”
* When someone tries to tell us about our machines, they start using big words in a funny language and we ‘tune out’.
* We believe that everything computer-related should be free, so we download cracked (aka “pirated”) software, bootleg music and video, and we don’t care who or where it comes from.

I could go on and on and on.

Yes.. we are our own worst enemies. But, you don’t have to be a part of the problem. And you don’t have to learn a big word-filled foreign language (aka “Geek speak”) to avoid the zombie attack.
Today’s free link: I have put together a list of proactive steps every computer user should know.. a checklist. In it you will find links to free, safe, and effective methods for protecting your computer, and keeping it safe. Please look over, Top 10 Things You Should Do To Your Computer. And then do us all a favor, pass the list on to your friends who have computers.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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August 18, 2008 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, antivirus, computers, cyber crime, e-mail, how to, Internet, Internet scam, PC, Phishing, phraud, security, tech, Web 2.0 | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

More security for Gmail

Your email account contains a lot of personal information, from private, personal letters to business documents. Email that you (probably) don’t want other people to see.

If you are anything like me, you probably sign in to your Inboxes from multiple computers. I, for example, occasionally sign into my e-mail accounts from a friend’s computer, or when traveling, a public computer. As a security paranoid kind of guy, I am sure to sign out before I leave… but every once in a while I wonder if I really did.

Thanks to a new feature in Gmail, I no longer have to wonder about that particular account; with this, I can now track my recent sessions and sign myself out remotely if I somehow forgot to do so.

At the bottom of your inbox page, you’ll see information about the time of the last activity on your account and whether it’s still open in another location.
Gmail_details

By glancing at this from time to time, I can see if something “doesn’t jibe”; like, my account was accessed 15 minutes ago, and I haven’t logged on yet today (that would be a pretty good indication that someone has gotten hold of my logon, and is reading my mail!).

To really see what’s going on, I click on the “Details” link.
activ_rprt

And here I can see my activity history, the IP Addresses that accessed my account (a “*” indicates a match to my current IP), and what type of connection was made. This info can help determine if (and who) unauthorized access is occurring.

But what I like best is the “Sign out all other sessions” button. Clicking this will disconnect any other machines which are logged on by remote control… say, if I did walk away from a session without logging off.

This feature, and the “always use https” setting featured in yesterday’s article, may make security-conscience Hotmail and Yahoo Mail users consider the switch to Gmail. (It has more storage, too.)

Today’s free link: 5-Star rated DriverMax is a powerful free utility which helps you download, backup and restore the drivers installed on your Windows Vista or Windows XP computer and check if newer versions are available. This tool can save you a lot of time when reinstalling Windows, especially on older computers for which the original CDs containing the drivers have been lost. You no longer have to track down old driver installation CDs, or spend hours searching for drivers on the Internet. DriverMax is also able to display a detailed report about all drivers (versions, release dates) installed on your system. And will help identify “unknown” devices in your computer.

Copyright 2007-8 &copy Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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August 5, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, device drivers, e-mail, how to, privacy, security, software, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments